Have you ever found yourself, perhaps in your own journey to qualify for Boston, self-sabotaging your own efforts? The fear of failure, of having to face your own inadequacy and inability to withstand the pain and the pace, causing you to not give your best; or to even not give anything at all? This is where I have found myself in recent weeks. And I am trying to figure out when it was, or what it was, that has caused me to become so weak, so fearful, almost paralyzed to the point of no longer wishing to try; but more importantly, what it’s going to take to snap me out of it and back to my usual fearless, confident, laid back, “take things as they come” and try harder next time mentality.
This is how I started to write this next chapter in my blog. I stopped. I did not like the overtone; the aura of negativity and depression. I had experienced a month of difficult training runs. My paces were still strong but my effort felt strained at all times. I was tired, irritable, and depressed. Then came week after week of difficult long runs. One where I felt so lightheaded that I had to stop less than halfway through. The next (a 15 miler) where I started to crash after the 10 mile mark. We blamed this one on poor fueling, which was actually NO fueling. Fueling on the long runs has always been, and probably always will be, a difficult task for me. So on the next long run (18-19mi) I forced myself to fuel. I had been crushing my goal pace while still intentionally holding back my pace for the first 8+miles but then I began to feel sick. Thus began my 10+mile downward spiral culminating with me finally breaking down to the dreaded “survival shuffle” (run/walk intervals) intermixed with episodes of dry heaving and vomiting. Had this not been at an actual race event, I probably would have just quit. Instead, I finished. I walked away shortly after. I left this run/race with the intent to not let it impact me. I was not going to dwell on it or allow it to bother me…but the disappointment followed me anyway. I was forced to take a few days off for a personal issue, despite my resistance, and this was the final blow to my confidence, my belief in myself and my ability to continue, that I was unable to withstand. For the first time in my life, I did not show up for, nor did I run, my scheduled long run. The guilt of this flake out was so heavy that I attempted the run the following day only to be met with my own pure misery and tears. I hated every mile, every moment, every single step of that run. I called it quits at 6.30mi. The events that followed and the price I paid with the subsequent hangover are details that I am not proud of and I refuse to recount. The point is that I decided, in that very moment, that no goal is worth the sacrifice of my time or my own personal happiness. If it does not motivate me, inspire me, or make me a better, stronger, happier person it is simply not worth doing. I spent the next several days questioning myself, my intentions, and my reasons for pursuing this Boston dream. I ran only when I wanted to, for only as far as I felt like, and only as fast as felt comfortable to me. On one particular run, in the unseasonably humid air and near constant rain, with a friend visiting from out of state, I had a mental breakthrough. She had asked me what had happened to me; she said that she could tell that I was just not enjoying this anymore; my posts in our private running group had become few and far between with little or no inspiring effort. In a nutshell, I recounted my recent struggles and ended with: “I’m just not enjoying this anymore. And if I don’t enjoy it then what is the point? It’s like I am looking for a reason not to continue, not to win, and there are so many of them right now. If this continues I am not going to make it. I am going to hang up my Asics and probably never run again. A month ago I was “Chasing Boston” but right now I am simply chasing the love of the run.” This observation and subsequent exchange between myself and my friend really got me thinking and questioning my reason “WHY?”. We ran comfortably for a little over 5 miles, talking, laughing, and it was just what I needed that day. I walked away with a fresh perspective of myself.
So here I am today, looking to impart this simple thought: Everyone has their own reason “why”; why they do what they do; in the marathon, why they run. It’s personal. It’s different for everyone. For me, it’s not about the glory or the “bragging rights”. It’s not about the honor or the pride or the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies such a strenuous endeavor. Deep down, it’s not even about Boston. Boston would simply be the culmination of progress to a level of athletic greatness beyond my highest expectations. Yes, most certainly, an honor, a privilege, and my deepest dream come true; but not my ultimate underlying reason for running the way that I do. It’s not about the medals or about beating anyone else out there on that course. In fact, it’s not about being better than any other runner at all except for myself. It’s about being better than I was the last time and, particularly in Pittsburgh, it is about being better than I was the last time I took on the challenge of that particularly difficult course. I do it because I love it. I do it because it makes me happy. It makes me feel good. I do it because, in doing so, I have been able to encourage and inspire so many others to pursue their own dreams (running or otherwise). I do it because it makes me a better person; it soothes the anxious, restless, impatient “me”. It makes me strong. It brings me peace. It makes me believe that anything is possible. I do it for the love of the run! Therefore, my training has continued and has rebounded in strength and in length. I had a phenomenally good long run yesterday and I am feeling optimistic about these final 3 weeks before the Pittsburgh Marathon 2017. While I, realistically, have to admit that a sub-4 marathon is probably not in sight for me at this time, a pretty huge marathon and course PR is! And that is something that will push me to give my best out there that day, something that I will be super proud of, and something that will fuel my drive to continue training, to continue improving, and to continue chasing Boston until my journey is complete and my dream of toeing the line in Hopkinton sees me all the way through to crossing that iconic finish line on Boyleston Street. I can almost see it now…”It all starts here.”
As a side note, however, while (ultimately) my heart is in ✨Boston✨, it has most definitely been made of STEEL right here in ✨Pittsburgh✨! (Follow the you tube link to end this post with total inspiration!😊)